Lee Pitts: Dining in the dark
June 23, 2011
Knowing I have a responsibility as a reporter to keep my readers abreast of all the trends in food and agriculture, my wife recently handed me an article about a fad that is all the rage in France. It seems that in some Parisian restaurants the customers are dining in the dark. No, not with the lights merely dimmed, I’m talking total darkness. The idea is that with the sense of sight turned off, the diner’s other senses, such as that of taste and smell, become more alive and the food tastes better.
I contend that the darker the restaurant the worse the food, the smaller the portions and the higher the price. I’ve also found that people will eat at a dimly lit restaurant that if they saw in the daylight you couldn’t drag them into with a six horse hitch. But this idea of eating in complete blackness appealed to my darker side, so I proposed to my wife that we try it. She liked the concept that she could just throw my food on the plate without regard to artistic presentation, and that she wouldn’t have to worry about “gently nestling my green beans in a bosom of risotto.” As if she’s ever done that before. And so my wife reluctantly agreed to dining in the dark with one strict rule: that the lights be kept on.
The last time we tried something like this things did NOT work out well. Following an idea she read in a woman’s magazine, we once ate alphabetically; only eating food that began with an “A,” then a “B” and so on through the alphabet. I dreaded the suppers created around Q, X and Z but I worried for nothing because we never got that far. In fact, on “B” night we never even got to the beef as my wife served me beet soup and brussels sprouts, my least favorite vegetables. The whole ordeal left a bad taste in my mouth.
Anyway, that’s how I found myself seated at the kitchen table with a bandana tied tightly around my eyes. Of course, there were issues of trust to overcome. I realized at the last minute that this would be a very good opportunity for my wife to feed me rat poison or to clean out the refrigerator of all the green and moldy stuff hiding inside. But it was too late. I was already committed and so the soup arrived.
Right away there were problems I hadn’t foreseen: I knocked over the water pitcher and stabbed myself in the forehead with a fork that I thought was my spoon. I’ve always practiced safe eating habits and always use condiments, and so I pounded on the bottom of my water glass trying to make the ketchup come out. I also reached for the pepper to season my soup but it tasted like the library paste we used to eat in kindergarten. My wife informed me later that I had in fact seasoned my soup with the goldfish food.
You’d be surprised at how not being able to see your food changes its taste. And so we began the game of me guessing what food I was eating. My wife’s salad tasted like sweet and sour pancakes and the dinner rolls like Fig Newtons®. I got my recommended daily dose of fiber by accidentally eating part of my place mat. (Not that bad, really.) Strangely, few of the foods tasted like any of the four food groups I was used to: fat, grease, starch and sugar. And who in their right mind would serve artichokes to someone who couldn’t see what they were doing? But my wife, with the sick sense of humor, did.
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When my wife served the main course I guessed that it was either corn on the cob, ribs still wrapped in Saran Wrap, Velveeta cheese in a delicate root beer gravy, fish sticks, (which I haven’t eaten since the third grade) or hamburger my wife forgot to defrost.
My wife hinted, “It’s something we eat all the time.”
“Leftovers?” I guessed. Incorrectly as it turns out. I finally got it right when the smoke alarm went off. “Either the house is burning down or you burned the roast again.”
In summary, I don’t think that dining in the dark will catch on in this country and I’d suggest that you NOT try this at home if your marriage is already a little shaky to begin with, or your Doctor has told you to watch what you eat.